Official Review: Words Without Song

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Laura Lee
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Official Review: Words Without Song

Post by Laura Lee »

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Words Without Song" by Martin Knox (Ireland Author).]
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2 out of 4 stars
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Words Without Song is a collection of poetry by Martin Knox. Many of the poems focus on social justice issues. In his preface, Knox explains: “In my poetry I try to highlight the issues which I see as potentially catastrophic for humanity.” He adds that his purpose is to “try to raise awareness, of the many enormous injustices in the world . . . without, at the same time, fully interpreting the poems for the reader.”

Knox has an extensive vocabulary that is used to great effect in his poetry. His wordplay is often clever, as when he speaks of the extinction of species across the globe so the rich can get richer: “The damage continues/Assisted by mindless kleptocrats.” (“Kelly’s Crag,” page 123.) His descriptions are, at times, a mastery of elegant understatement, as in his description of a woman lighting a cigarette in “The Woman on the 229 Bus,” which states:

Trembling hand,
Lighter fired,
Ahhhh,
The smoke is going south:
Emphysema vicariously planned.


Knox writes for an erudite audience. This can be delightful, adding depths of meaning for the reader to suss out. For example, in “The Ostler,” the protagonist is described as “Jealous/Dog in the manger . . . An uninvited runner on the track/Of Love/Of the landlord’s daughter/Jess.” To anyone who has ever read “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes, this is a clear reference to “Tim the ostler,” “dumb as a dog,” who loved “Bess, the landlord’s daughter.” In “The Death of Cleopatra,” the line “to go gently into that good night” is an obvious reminder of Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”

But this very element makes for an extremely narrow audience, which is why I cannot give it more than two out of four stars. It’s all well and good to not fully interpret the poems for the reader. It’s another thing entirely to write so obscurely even an educated reader cannot understand the intended inference. For example, in “Indoctrination at the Moral Sciences Club, Cambridge 1946” Knox provides a YouTube link to explain the event that inspired the poem. But even with that information, it’s hard to draw a correlation from the event to the words on the page.

Sadly, his wordplay often leaves clever behind and crosses into the nonsensical as in “Pandering to Illusions,” where he writes of “A world of vain illusions/And arrogant contusions.” Nice rhyming, but how can a bruise be arrogant? In “A Man Walking His Dog,” the poem opens with:

I met a man in the woods today
In a chiral, handedness kind of way:
We had so much in common-
Large, large tracts of our asymmetric DNA.


Depending upon which definition of “chiral” you use, the phrase is either redundant or contradictory. "Chiral" pertains to the hands anyway, and in chemistry, chirality is when a molecule cannot be superimposed on its mirror image. This definition actually contradicts the point emphasized in the rest of the poem.

Too often, the audience is so narrow that only Knox himself knows what he is talking about. In “Science, Religion and Urban Myths on the Wild Atlantic Way,” Knox states:

For original, brazen thought
Is sparse, thin and bare,
And has been since Cambrensis’ day,
Or since Berkeley
Had his say.


And which Berkeley would that be? The philosopher, George Berkeley, who died in 1753? Or Sir Lawrence Berkeley who died in 1458? Or some other Berkeley entirely? Without knowing of whom Knox speaks, the impact on the reader is lost. This occurs repeatedly throughout the entire book.

The book is professionally edited with only a handful of typos. Most of the points that caught my eye were simply stylistic differences. This collection really needs another round of editing for content, weeding out poems that have significance only to the poet. If you are a physicist, a geneticist, or a chemical engineer and you love poetry, then you would probably understand and enjoy most of the poems in this collection. But even then, there are a number of poems explicable only to Knox himself. That is unfortunate as these distract from the handful of truly brilliant poems this collection also contains.

******
Words Without Song
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Laura Lee

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Post by sirbobthewise »

I love a good book of poetry, and I definitely don’t always need an interpretation, but I think you are on the mark saying that it’s another matter to write an entire book filled with material and references that only a limited population could understand. Hopefully, the writer will be able to work with someone (or several someones) outside of that circle of thought, so as to see which poems work for a wider audience. Great and thorough review! It sounds like you were the right person to read this book. These references would have likely gone straight over my head.

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Post by Koltrast »

When you started describing the book, I was wondering what led to your decision to rate it two stars. Myself, I'm a fan of obscurity, nonsensical poems and riddle-like references, but it seems Knox might have taken obscurity a step too far. After all, as a reader you want to be able to, at least on some level, relate to the poems. My curiosity is piqued, though, so this one goes to my want-to-read list. Terrific review, well done!
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Post by Moh2 »

Anyone would do with a good poem. However, this kind of poems are sort of rare. I do hope the poet hits the target on this one. Nice review!

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Post by Laura Lee »

sirbobthewise wrote:
16 Jun 2020, 23:49
I love a good book of poetry, and I definitely don’t always need an interpretation, but I think you are on the mark saying that it’s another matter to write an entire book filled with material and references that only a limited population could understand. Hopefully, the writer will be able to work with someone (or several someones) outside of that circle of thought, so as to see which poems work for a wider audience. Great and thorough review! It sounds like you were the right person to read this book. These references would have likely gone straight over my head.
Some of the poems are brilliant. He's smart and certainly has talent. Too many, however, have meaning only for the poet and read more like journal musings. Thanks for your comment! :)
Laura Lee

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Post by Laura Lee »

Koltrast wrote:
17 Jun 2020, 04:38
When you started describing the book, I was wondering what led to your decision to rate it two stars. Myself, I'm a fan of obscurity, nonsensical poems and riddle-like references, but it seems Knox might have taken obscurity a step too far. After all, as a reader you want to be able to, at least on some level, relate to the poems. My curiosity is piqued, though, so this one goes to my want-to-read list. Terrific review, well done!
Exactly. The audience needs to be able to relate on some level to the poems. On those poems where I could relate, they were very well done. I really enjoyed his creative turns-of-phrase and deft skill at summarizing thoughts into a few words. Maybe with your love of deciphering obscure poems, this would be right up your alley. :)
Laura Lee

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Laura Lee
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Post by Laura Lee »

Moh2 wrote:
17 Jun 2020, 04:50
Anyone would do with a good poem. However, this kind of poems are sort of rare. I do hope the poet hits the target on this one. Nice review!
Thanks for your comment! :)
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Post by diana lowery »

This statement caused me to chuckle: "Sadly, his wordplay often leaves clever behind." The first time I read it, my mind added the word his in front of clever. Either way, it sounds like he was too clever for his own good. Nice review!

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Post by Laura Lee »

diana lowery wrote:
17 Jun 2020, 15:49
This statement caused me to chuckle: "Sadly, his wordplay often leaves clever behind." The first time I read it, my mind added the word his in front of clever. Either way, it sounds like he was too clever for his own good. Nice review!
LOL I would agree with your assessment. When it's impossible to understand what the poet is meaning, he's too clever for his own good. Thanks for your comment!
Laura Lee

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Post by Kanda_theGreat »

I love works of art that attempt to edify the society. However, it's a pity that the author chose an uncouth approach in his venture.
Thank you for the honest review.
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Post by Laura Lee »

Kanda_theGreat wrote:
18 Jun 2020, 02:39
I love works of art that attempt to edify the society. However, it's a pity that the author chose an uncouth approach in his venture.
Thank you for the honest review.
Thanks for your comment.
Laura Lee

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Moh2 wrote:
17 Jun 2020, 04:50
Anyone would do with a good poem. However, this kind of poems are sort of rare. I do hope the poet hits the target on this one. Nice review!
So true. The good poem nowadays is rare. Looking forward to read the poem. Loved the review
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Post by Maxwil1 »

It's indeed a very good book.....it requires wisdom to understand the contents in it. If you re a reader who doesn't coordinate thoughts and interpreting what is written, surely you will get nothing of it.
He was very tactical in using his words and if you re a Bible reader and use the rule of relativism, you will enjoy this book.
U give you 3/4

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Laura Lee
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Post by Laura Lee »

Meenashiva wrote:
18 Jun 2020, 23:22
Moh2 wrote:
17 Jun 2020, 04:50
Anyone would do with a good poem. However, this kind of poems are sort of rare. I do hope the poet hits the target on this one. Nice review!
So true. The good poem nowadays is rare. Looking forward to read the poem. Loved the review
Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!
Laura Lee

“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
― Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx

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Laura Lee
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Post by Laura Lee »

Maxwil1 wrote:
19 Jun 2020, 01:58
It's indeed a very good book.....it requires wisdom to understand the contents in it. If you re a reader who doesn't coordinate thoughts and interpreting what is written, surely you will get nothing of it.
He was very tactical in using his words and if you re a Bible reader and use the rule of relativism, you will enjoy this book.
U give you 3/4
Thanks for your comment.
Laura Lee

“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
― Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx

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